I found myself asking if Gillian Flynn is mad herself or just overly brilliant. What with Dark Places, it takes a stable mind to soak in every damning and morbid detail of Libby Day’s life. Flynn’s ingenuity in her writing is obvious, though one might think that no normal person could write something as utterly disturbing and gruesome as her second novel. I can say that the genius of her debut novel Sharp Objects was no fluke in any way.
Like her other two bestselling books Sharp Objects and Gone Girl, Dark Places contains the familiar acerbic, self-loathing, and sinister characters that readers would both love and hate at the same time. And for something like that to evoke such powerful emotions is rather an accomplishment.
Dark Places begins with Libby Day, who at the age of seven found herself hiding inside her mother’s closet after she witnessed the grisly massacre of her well-meaning mother, Patty and two older sisters in their poverty-stricken farmhouse in Kinnakee, Kansas. The one who took the axe and brought it upon the Day family was Ben Day, Libby’s troubled, teenage brother. With Libby pointing Ben as the killer, her brother was convicted of the murder.
Decades passed and now that Ben is locked away for his crimes, Libby is having trouble with her finances. The fund that the well-wishers raised for her after the murders is running out. Broke and alone, with no clear vision of what would become of her, Libby is desperate enough to accept an offering by the Kill Club, an odd group of people obsessed with the macabre. Libby plans to milk the club by returning to her past and reaching out to the people who were part of the case.
As Libby journeys to her bleak, shabby childhood town Kinnakee and to other old places that sit in squalor, the narrative abruptly changes through the perspective of Libby’s family- including Ben, Patty, and then back to Libby. As she eagerly tries to piece everything together and prove to the Kill Club that her brother was indeed the killer, Libby finds herself, yet again, running away from death’s clutches.
There’s no way I could have liked Libby or the other characters of the book. Each has their own quirks and flaws, which made every one of them hard to like. But here’s Libby Day- selfish, envious, and hateful Libby- and her once socially-awkward and troubled brother Ben, both you would have a hard time to empathize with but you surprisingly would root for. It won’t even be a big deal by then that you disliked the characters as every page turns grimmer than the previous.
It’s an absolutely thought-provoking, pitch-black book to read as it bares the evil side of humanity. I guarantee that you would find it difficult to put the book down, even if you have to sacrifice your sleep. Okay, it’s a bit exaggerated but that’s how Dark Places affected me. The only thing that surprised me a bit was the final revelation, which although I haven’t seen coming, didn’t quite sit on my expectations well. You would know for sure once you flip that dreaded page.
The title of the book is somewhat Meta, owing to the fact that once you open its eerie cover you are taken in a very dark place that’s frightening to the point of paranoia. The unsettling plot might make a person shove it away once the ghastly events start to creep up, but Gillian Flynn wrote it with such mastery that even the most repulsive and nerve-fraying episodes were poetically-written to devour hungrily. Once you start nibbling Flynn’s silken prose, you would want to spit it out and eat it back again, savouring the pungent and other times copper taste of her words in your mouth. With that said, Gillian Flynn has truly stamped herself as the mistress of crime fiction.
“I felt something loosen in me, that shouldn’t have loosened. A stitch come undone.”
Title: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn
Published: May 5, 2009, Shaye Areheart Books
Target Audience: Adult
Genre: Mystery, Thriller